For early European visitors, Australian fauna and flora were strange and exotic. It was with wonder and excitement that scientists collected natural history specimens which exemplified the vast array of new life to be discovered on the southern continent. The Macquarie Collector's Chest, acquired by the State Library of New South Wales in 2004, is a fascinating cultural artefact used to display a collection of such specimens, including insects, butterflies, birds and seashells that were found in the colony. It includes 13 paintings of fauna and colonial landscapes, two of which depict Indigenous Australians in a naturalistic way. The chest, finely crafted and decorated, serves to remind us of the marvel and delight experienced by early European settlers when encountering the natural life of the Great South Land for the first time.
- Ask students to select a drawer from within the Macquarie Collector's Chest. Ask them to pretend that they are an English visitor to Australia in the early 19th century and to write a letter describing the specimens in the drawer to someone at home in England who has never seen Australian fauna before.
Student Activity Sheet H21.5 The Macquarie Collector's Chest